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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK


World: Middle East

Iran retaliates in war of words

Honorary Guards mark the anniversary in Baghdad

Iran has hit back at President Saddam Hussein following the Iraqi leader's verbal attack on his arch enemy on Sunday.

The war of words between the neighbouring states erupted on Sunday on the 11th anniversary of the end of the eight-year war between them.

In his anniversary speech, Saddam Hussein accused Iran of detaining thousands of Iraqi prisoners and refusing to register them with international agencies

Iran's foreign ministry was quick to retaliate. On Monday, a spokesman told the Iranian press: "Unfortunately, the head of the Iraqi Government is not prepared to put aside his irrational behaviour in relations with other countries."

Iran's press also reacted to the speech. The Iran Daily reports: "No nations in the world have suffered from the madness of their respective neighbours as have the states surrounding Iraq.


The BBC's Barbara Plett: Torture accusations
"He has wielded his sword with all the finesse of a blind drunkard", it added.

The conservative Tehran Times described Saddam Hussein as a "pest" warning him against taking up armed conflict against the Islamic republic. It added that Iran was "militarily strong enough to sever the hands of any intruder".

Warning of force

Speaking on Iraqi TV on Sunday, Saddam Hussein accused Iran of deceiving Baghdad over sheltering military aircraft during the Gulf War.

He said Iran tortured and murdered Iraqi PoWs "simply for not betraying their country".

He warned that Iraq "does not hesitate to use force when it becomes the only way to show the righteousness of its cause or when reason fails to convince those who are wrong".


[ image: Saddam Hussein: Iraq described him as irrational and a pest]
Saddam Hussein: Iraq described him as irrational and a pest
The president also attacked Iran over the aircraft which the Iraqis left for safe keeping in Iran at the start of the 1991 Gulf War, and which remain in Iran.

Iran says it has 22 Iraqi aircraft and has offered to give them to the United Nations if requested to do so.

"Great Victory Day" marks the end of the war which claimed nearly one million lives.

Iraq says it has evidence that 13,000 Iraqis are still captive in Iran. For its part, Iran says Iraq still has nearly 3,000 of its citizens.

Both sides deny that they hold any more prisoners of war, although this has not prevented regular exchanges of prisoners. Bodies of war victims are also regularly handed over, and the next exchange is expected on 23 August.

Deteriorating ties


[ image: The United Nations sponsored the ceasefire]
The United Nations sponsored the ceasefire
The BBC's Jon Leyne says the Iraqi leader's speech may mark a new deterioration in relations between them, despite some small improvements over the last couple of years.

The two governments have not normalised relations, and diplomatic ties are only at charge d'affaires level.

Saddam Hussein's speech was preceded by condemnations of Iran in the official Iraqi media.

The official al-Iraq daily warned that the battles of the 1980-88 war may be over, "but the hatred persists".

A defeated Iran is "waiting for the chance to stab us in the back", the newspaper added.

Missile attack

Both Iran and Iraq are still thought to harbour opposition groups hostile to the opposing governments.

In June, Iran fired Scud missiles into a camp in Iraq run by the main armed Iranian opposition group, the People's Mujahedeen, injuring six Iraqis.

The remaining hatred between Baghdad and Tehran is tempered by their common hostility to the United States, and the fear of either government of becoming further isolated in some diplomatic realignment.



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